A randomised trial of two information packages distributed to new cancer patients before their initial appointment at a regional cancer centre
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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the extent to which a new patient information package (NPIP) or a mini version of the same package (mini-NPIP) reduces emotional distress and meets the informational needs of patients arriving at a tertiary cancer centre for the first time. A comprehensive package, NPIP, consisting of procedural information regarding cancer centre location, description of the health care team, treatment services, research, educational activities, accommodation and community services provided at the centre; and a condensed version of the same package, mini-NPIP, were developed. Consecutive patients with newly diagnosed breast, gynaecological, lung and prostate cancer, referred to the centre for the first time were prerandomised to receive NPIP, mini-NPIP or no information package. Patients randomised to NPIP or mini-NPIP were mailed the information package at least one week before their first appointment. On arrival at the centre, patients were administered the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) which measures psychological distress, and interviewed regarding preferences for information and acceptability of the information packages. Of 465 randomised patients, 161 were excluded post-randomisation and 304 completed the entire interview: 100 were randomised to the NPIP, 102 to the mini-NPIP and 102 to the control group. Emotional distress as measured by the BSI was similar for all groups (P = 0.98). Most patients preferred to receive the information (98%), receive it before the first appointment (84%) and by mail (79%). These preferences were more evident for those given the information packages. The majority of patients found the information packages easy to understand (88%) and useful (89%), and no differences were detected between packages. The cost of production and dissemination of NPIP was more than double the cost for mini-NPIP: $ 8.93 vs $ 3.98 (Canadian dollars) per patient. For patients presenting to a cancer centre for the first time, packages of procedural information do not appear to reduce psychological distress, but are preferred by patients. Given the cost of producing NPIP, mini-NPIP is the preferred approach.
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